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CHS 202: Race, Racism and Critical Thinking

Race, Racism and Critical Thinking

What is Legal Research?

Legal research is finding an answer to a legal question or checking for the legal precedent that can be cited in a brief or at trial. Every lawsuit, appeal, criminal case, and legal process, in general, requires some amount of legal research

Tips or Legal Research

Legal research is used in a wide range of civil and criminal cases, decisions, and proceedings. Your assignment is focused on cases that reached the supreme court or higher state courts. In the example below, Mendez v Westminster, see how background information and research can help uncover details about the significance of a ruling. Also, pay attention to the search terms used to locate these cases. 

Mendez v Westminster

While Brown v. Board of Education is a widely known landmark Supreme Court case, few can trace its origins to the case of nine-year-old Sylvia Mendez in Mendez v. Westminster. Sylvia’s case, which was decided in the federal courts in California, preceded Brown by about eight years.  Thurgood Marshall represented Sylvia Mendez and Linda Brown.  Marshall used some of the same arguments from Mendez to win Brown v. Board of Education.  
-- Background - Mendez v. Westminster Re-Enactment, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts on behalf of the Federal Judiciary, 

Start with a quick Google search for your case. You can find information online from government websites (.gov) and even Wikipedia entries can provide background information (dates, full case name, and citations).  Search OneSearch for articles (newspaper, magazine, and journals) about the case.

Certain legal cases fall under the jurisdiction of the supreme court:  

  • Controversies between two or more states;
  • All actions or proceedings to which ambassadors, other public ministers, consuls, or vice consuls of foreign states are parties;
  • All controversies between the United States and a state; and
  • All actions or proceedings by a state against the citizens of another state or against aliens.

Both the federal government and each of the state governments have their own court systems. Discover the differences in structure, judicial selection, and cases heard in both systems using the table on United States Courts


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